Featuring longer battery life and a 90-percent-larger top screen than its portable predecessor, the new Nintendo 3DS XL is already an appealing prospect for on-the-go-gamers. Launch it alongside the latest Super Mario Bros. title, though, and you've got a pairing no twitchy-fingered Nintendo fan can deny. Sporting all the coin-collecting, Koopa-crushing, Bowser-besting gameplay we've come to expect from the classic series, New Super Mario Bros. 2 follow-up to 2006's popular DS platformer springs to eye-popping life on the new hand-held.
While it looks especially pretty on the 3DS XL's big, beautiful screen, Mario's most recent princess-rescuing quest can certainly be enjoyed on the original 3DS. Regardless of platform, fans of the franchise's enduring formula and endearing presentation will discover plenty of familiar and fresh fun during this latest side-scrolling trek through the Mushroom Kingdom. On top of featuring the series' defining staples platforming puzzles, hidden collectibles, inventive power-ups, cartoon-y combat, secret areas NSMB2 puts a new focus on those shiny gold coins. In addition to tallying riches in each individual level, the game keeps a running count of currency collected during all modes and play-throughs; updates between levels even tout milestones to that ultimate million-coin mark.
A number of new abilities drive Mario's coin-collecting spree, while also tweaking the series' signature gameplay; Gold Flower power-ups turn the mustachioed mascot into a shiny Midas who can transform nearly everything he touches into spinning coins, while another neat trick temporarily turns his head into a gold brick that spews coins as he runs and jumps. Other cool touches, such as pipes raining coins from their spouts and certain enemies leaving trails of gold in their wake, make the Mushroom Kingdom feel like a giant, generous ATM machine.
While attempting to endlessly shower Mario in riches adds an addictive, goal-oriented aspect to the usual princess-pursuing proceedings, it doesn't add much of the game-changing innovation we've come to expect from Mario games. That's not to say, however, the greed-fueled gameplay isn't loads of arcade-flavored fun; in fact, the standalone, StreetPass-supporting Coin Rush mode lends itself especially well to the collection-crazed focus, allowing players to challenge each other in coin-accruing mini challenges.
NSMB2 also supports co-op play as well as the handheld's glasses-free 3D. The former is a blast if you've got a 3DS-owning buddy by your side, but the latter doesn't effectively take advantage of the pop-off-the-screen tech. Whether you're an existing 3DS owner seeking a fresh platforming fix or a recent 3DS XL adopter looking for the perfect game to enjoy on your shiny new hardware, NSMB2 is another must-play for Mario fans young and old. B+